Monday, November 30, 2009


We hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We did without a doubt! I can honestly say that this was my favorite, and most memorable, Thanksgiving. Jose and I cooked all day long, and the result was a totally traditional and successful Thanksgiving dinner.

For under 100 dollars, we bought everything we needed. It took research and dedication, but we did find every ingredient. There were some variations between what we usually use in the United States and what we found here, but it all worked out.

We had a 15 pound turkey, walnut stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, biscuits, peas, salad, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and Haagan Dazs vanilla ice cream. Fresh cranberries are apparently not to be found in Mexico, but we made sauce from dried cranberries that turned out exactly the same as with fresh. We used a strange kind of pumpkin, but once cooked and blended, looked the same.

Everyone was really excited about Thanksgiving, because they knew nothing more about it than it involved a turkey. All day, people were visiting us in the kitchen asking about what the pie crust was for, how to cook the turkey, and why we were blending pumpkin. Cooking in the oven isn't very common in Mexico, so they were interested in us using it. The oven doesn't have degrees marked on it, only 1,2,3,4. We couldn't figure out what that meant, so we don't know what temperature we cooked anything at. Luckily, the turkey came out moist.

I was worried that they wouldn't like the food because it is so different than what they usually eat, but dinner was a huge success. Jose and I had to serve ourselves first, because they weren't sure how to serve the food. By the time we got to the table though, everyone looked like experts. They were mixing potato, turkey, and cranberry sauce like they had done it every year of their lives. Everyone agreed the food was different, but really good. They want us to teach them how to make everything we had at that dinner, and more of our favorite foods. It was so nice to see them really enjoying the food we made and loved.

Sergio asked us if we had to pray with this meal, and we said no, but didn't tell him about saying what we are grateful for. For that, we waited until everyone was comfortable at the table and then sprung it on them. To my surprise, no one was hesitant and everyone took it seriously. Maribel and Sergio, the newlyweds, both said they were thankful for their new families. I could tell they were excited to be able to say that. Rosy, Jose's cousin, said she was thankful for the good health that every member of her family has. Irene, Jose's aunt, said she is thankful for her family and the dinner, because it was exciting for her to try a new tradition. Jose and I both said that we were thankful for having them become our family, and for giving us a loving place to stay and spend the holiday.

Dessert was also a success. The pumpkin pie turned out more like pumpkin custard or pudding in a crust, but it was extremely popular. They like the apple pie also, but not nearly as much as the pumpkin. We told them Haagan Dazs ice cream is the best there is, but it had melted on the way home and refroze with ice crystals. I think that having that be the biggest disappointment of the dinner is nothing to complain about though.

Later, Cecilia the other daughter, her boyfriend, and her father came and ate. In total, we served 9 people, and everyone liked the dinner. We have pictures from the day on my Facebook account. This was one of my best days and experiences in Mexico.

Happy holidays!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Student Visa Update

Our attorney talked to the student visa attorney, but he doesn't know if Jose is eligible or not. He is in Uruguay until the end of November, and in the beginning of December, he is coming to Mexico. When he gets to Mexico, he is going to ask around at the consulate to find out if Jose can apply for the visa or not.

We were hoping for an answer sooner, so we could start working on the visa if we got good news. Cal Poly's winter quarter starts in the very beginning of January. If we are told in the beginning of December that Jose can apply for the visa, it might already be too late to get back in time for winter quarter. He would have to wait until the start of the Spring quarter, which means we wouldn't be able to go home until the beginning of March.

The form we got from Cal Poly for the visa wasn't the right one, and we have been waiting for a few days to get the new one, but it hasn't come yet. I suppose it isn't as big a rush as before, since we have to wait until December anyways, but it would be nice to know it was done.

My dad is getting ready for the Tuesday's appointment by getting as much information together as he can, so if he is told we can appeal, it will move as quickly as possible.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Attorneys, Still Trying

We are still in Mexico City, and Jose has gotten over his sickness. We haven't been doing very much, because we aren't in the mood for doing many touristy things. We would like to find productive things to do, but so far we haven't thought of anything. What are we supposed to do? I can't work, if Jose got a job I'd be left alone, and we can't go to school. I wish we could get jobs, even temporary, boring ones,because they would at least give us something to do and help pass the time. We spend all day thinking, and mix sleeping, playing with the dogs, and watching TV in with that. Its hard to actually have nothing to do and no responsibilities to take care of. We can't get out of this waiting game, and its dragging on for way too long.

We were trying to work on the student visa, but its going really slowly and questionably. We got the I-20 form that we needed from Cal Poly, but before we can submit it we need a letter from Jose's academic advisor. His advisor said he would write a letter for the waiver packet, and never did, and now he hasn't responded to our e-mail about the letter. All he has to do is say when he thinks Jose will graduate. It will take him 10 minutes to complete, and the entire packet is waiting on it.

I got an e-mail today from the woman at Cal Poly who is helping us with the form, saying that she thinks we might need a different version of it now, because Jose is in Mexico. She has never dealt with a situation like this, so she asked what our attorney thinks. Of course, our attorney doesn't know, and we are waiting for her to have a meeting with another attorney who knows about student visas. We started this first form, might need another, but can't find out quickly because we have to wait for our attorney to talk to another. Of course, even dealing with this form is all in hopes that the new attorney will say that Jose is even eligible for the student visa. We've gotten all excited about school again, with Jose planning out his classes to see when he would graduate, finding out that he could work part-time on campus, be eligible for scholarships, and even get inexpensive health care. It seems to me like we should have found out first whether Jose has a chance of getting the visa, before we start working on it and realize how amazing it would be.

My dad has an appointment on Tuesday with a really good attorney in San Francisco. I don't know the firm's name, but they have a really good reputation. My mom's friend used them when her and her husband were getting his citizenship and they had a good experience. He is a citizen now, and that's success enough for us. My dad is going to find out about appealing the three year bar. Apparently there is a time frame for appeals, and our time is running out, so we would need to start soon. It might be a long shot, but I really hope we can try.

For now, we just have to keep trying to get information, and hopefully there will be something we can do. Its starting to feel like options are slowly dropping off the list, and we are even more stuck than before.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday's Appointment

My dad had an appointment with the attorney on Tuesday to see what options are out there for us. While she is an excellent immigration attorney, and really wants to help us, she does not know much about what to do now that things went wrong.

She is going to talk to other attorneys that she knows who specialize in different areas. Our main options now are to appeal the decision in hopes of overturning the three year bar, or to apply for a student visa. Our attorney knows of another attorney who specializes in overturning immigration rulings, one that specializes in student visas, and another who knows about immigration to Canada, in case we run out of options and want to go up there. My dad and the attorney are planning a "multipronged attack," so that, hopefully, something will work out. Unfortunately, each option has some problems that we may not be able to get around.

We aren't sure how an appeal would go. It seems that immigration doesn't like to change their decisions, or admit anything that might mean they were wrong. We are looking into the appeal, in hopes that we may get the three year bar removed, and can move on with the next step in the process. If we were successful with that, Jose could be back in the United States with legal residence in less than three years. We are waiting for advice from the other attorney before starting an appeal.

A student visa might be the fastest way to get us back in the U.S., but we are not sure Jose is eligible. He would be required to prove that he has a life in Mexico that he would want to return to after graduation, including maintaining a residence in Mexico. We don't have the life here they want to see, and because Jose lived in the United States for 18 years, it would be clear that he has a life there. He has to show he wants to live in Mexico, but he already submitted his application to live in the U.S. permanently, so it would probably be hard for U.S. immigration to believe that Jose wouldn't overstay his visa. Also, he asked at the consulate the last time he was there, and he was told that the three year bar is meant to keep him out of the U.S., so a student visa would interfere with his three year bar and not be allowed. If we could get it, Jose would pay international fees at Cal Poly, which would increase his tuition from $6,000 a year to $17,000 a year. That would, of course, be totally worth it. We are just waiting to hear from the student visa attorney, and hoping for some good news, so we can start applying for the visa, and maybe be home in time for Winter quarter in January.

Another option, and our first choice if we can't be in the United States, is to live in Vancouver and go to school there. Tuition would be about $23,000 a year, but Jose might be able to get some scholarships to help. I loved Canada when I went, and I know I would be much happier there than in many other places. However, Canada just began requiring visas for Mexicans because there were too many immigrating illegally. We had been hearing for the last year or so that lots of undocumented workers in the U.S. left to Canada, because there were more jobs. Jose would need to be approved for a student visa, but also get another visa for living there, and the visa requirements look even more strict than in the United States. Again, he would have to prove that his life is in Mexico, but they also ask about other countries Jose has lived in. Since his school records come from the United States, but we don't have a copy of a visa to show Canada, it will be obvious he lived there illegally. That could really cause problems, because Canada is now serious about preventing Mexicans from living their illegally. It's really just a case of bad timing, because these visa requirements have only been in place since July.

I wish we could combine all the options that could almost work into one option that would definitely work. I do not want to live in Mexico for three years, and to be honest, I don't know if I could be happy. It has been a nice place to visit, after my culture shock wore off at least, but that doesn't mean it would be a nice place to live.

We will continue to hope for a good outcome.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Looking into Options

We are still in Mexico City, and Jose has gotten quite sick, so we are still working on recovering more than moving on. However, we are lucky enough to have a supportive family that is looking into our options for us.

My father has an appointment with our attorney on Tuesday to see what she can come up with. He has been doing a lot of research himself, and while there do appear to be possibilities, each has major drawbacks that appear almost impossible to overcome. We are waiting anxiously to see if the attorney can deliver some good news.

My godfather has discovered the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. It looks amazing, and promising. I personally loved Canada both times I went, and have wanted to go back since. I think it could be a very comfortable place for us to stay for three years. We have a much better chance of creating a real life in Canada than Mexico. Plus, I love maple sugar candy, and a three year supply of it would be incredible!

Bit by bit, the world is starting to open up again and give us some room to move.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mexico City, again

We are back in Mexico City, and finally able to relax. We still do not feel great, but it is wonderful to be back with Joses`s family and Cholula. They are so loving and supportive, they usually make dealing with this easier. Sometimes, however, it is harder to be with them rather than in a hotel, because their house is so full of love. Being alone in a hotel is extremeley impersonal, and it is easier to not think about everything we are missing out on with our families in the U.S. The Baltazar`s include us in everything and are always kind, but it makes us think about our families and how much we want to go home even more.

We both woke up with sore throats today, but it doesn`t look like it is anything serious. We really don`t want to deal with physical weakness while trying to build our emotional strength back up, so we spent most of the day in bed. Hopefully our bodies will recover completely quickly, and we can put all our energy into feeling better about our situation.

I am so glad we are young. I can`t imagine how we would be feeling if we were ready to buy a house, start our careers, or, above all, have kids, and we suddenly had to put everything on hold. The only thing we are really missing out on is our family, and luckily we have many ways to stay close. We are in a much better situation than we would be if we were even just five years older.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

News and New Plans

Jose got the long-awaited news from the consulate today. It is much worse than we expected.

We won’t be able to go home for three years. Apparently, Jose was ineligible for the waiver the consulate approved him for in August. They approved him at his appointment, and we didn’t hear anything more, although they changed the decision on September 8th. While we traveled around Mexico (luckily having a great time,) thinking that we would be home soon, we were in fact no longer eligible for the waiver we were preparing. While three years is hard for us to accept, it could have been 10 years just as easily, so we appreciate that it is on the lighter end of the punishment spectrum.

The consulate kept Jose’s waiver packet until today, but we got a chance to look through it this afternoon. We are confident that it would have proved “extreme hardship,” which is what the consular officials look for when deciding the need for residency. Every letter sounds like we are the building blocks of our community and family, the medical records seem like many are in serious danger with us in Mexico, our school records show us both to be geniuses, and overall the packet proves that it is an outstanding life we are leaving in the United States. In my humble opinion, each of our claims is true and visa worthy.

The percentage of cases approved fluctuates, with no warning or explanation by the government. Our biggest concern about committing to this trip was being trapped here if the percentage changed for the worse. When we left the United States, 55 percent of all cases were being approved for the Pilot Program, which allows applicants to return to the United States with a visa less than a week after their second appointment. If we had gotten that, we would have been going home tomorrow. Instead, we got the news that we have to wait three years, before returning to start almost completely over with this whole process.

As we had feared may happen, fewer cases have been approved in the past month. Ruben told us that almost everyone he hosted in the months before we came were approved and returned to the U.S. legally within a few months. However, starting just a week or two after our first appointment (notice how this coincides nicely with Jose’s ineligibility,) Ruben saw an obvious change. Almost everyone he had at his house in September and October were given a minimum 15 month wait. In the past, we heard of the acceptance rate dropping to 20 percent, and it sounds like it is around that number again.

Needless to say, we have countless difficult emotions to deal with. I really thought we were going home. Because I truly believe we deserve to go home now, I got ahead of myself, and was already planning on celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with a newfound respect for my easy life in the United States and my endlessly supportive family. I don’t know what the holidays will be like this year, but I know that this has at least taught me to have greater respect for things as basic as just being alive.

Jose and I are doing okay. My mother says that we are strong and brave, but I’m not sure that we haven’t just been in survival mode. I am looking forward to leaving Ciudad Juarez tomorrow morning, and getting back to family and Cholula in Mexico City to regroup. I think our true strength will come out in the next week or so, when we have gotten back to Mexico City and can finally stop watching our backs all the time. It will be good to drop our guard enough to see what’s really happening inside our hearts and minds. Maybe we are just handling this with strength and bravery, and maybe we are feeling our true emotions, but I just can’t believe that I have that much strength in me. If it turns out that I really do, it is strength that I never knew existed.

We will be posting frequently in the near future with updates and plans. What will we do with these unexpected three open years? Mexico? Canada? Europe? Anything.

We have almost an entire world open to us!